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The Roots of Innovation: Why SOCF is investing in big ideas

The Sisters of Charity Foundation (SOCF) of Cleveland’s fellowship, known as The Innovation Mission, is a powerful opportunity for accomplished professionals to advance their innovative ideas to change the trajectory of poverty in Cleveland. The five professionals we selected for The Innovation Mission began the fellowship in November 2017. We will be sharing their journey over the course of 18 months. In this installment, SOCF President Sue Krey explains why this was the ideal undertaking for the foundation.

 

Since 1996, the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland has partnered with residents, non-profits and community leaders to change the trajectory of poverty in Cuyahoga County – but the spirit of the foundation existed long before then.

The Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine settled in Cleveland in 1851, dedicating their lives and the work of their order to supporting women and children living in poverty. They took a leap and traveled to a foreign country and trusted in themselves and God that their commitment to their mission could make change. They are, in a way, models of innovation.

More than a century later, they established the St. Ann Foundation. It was the first health care conversion foundation and the first foundation formed by a congregation of Catholic sisters in the United States, and it later grew into the Sisters of Charity Foundations of Cleveland, South Carolina and Canton.

We’re proud of the great work that the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland has done in the foundation’s focus areas to end homelessness, reduce health disparities, improve educational opportunities and support the ongoing social justice work of the Catholic sisters. But we consistently hear the troubling statistic that 1 in 3 Clevelanders still live in poverty, including more than 50 percent of the city’s children.

We thought about how innovation could be leveraged to help our community address the challenging problems related to poverty. While we typically invest in organizations that present solid evidence and proof of results, we opted this time to invest in individuals and the potential power of their ideas. We must continue to support existing effective programs and services, but to begin to disrupt our multi-generational cycle of poverty, we need to expand the thinking and bring more ideas to the table.

We know Northeast Ohioans are innovative. Whether it’s a cutting-edge business or a novel way to fund entrepreneurial ideas, our community embraces the power of thinking outside the box. But the opportunity for experimentation and the discipline of innovation are not always supported and encouraged in the social sector, and we wanted to change that. And thus, The Innovation Mission was born.

We are partnering with the Cleveland Leadership Center to invest in five passionate Clevelanders who have significant experience in their fields. We’re giving them the time and space to bolster their ability as innovators who can test and develop solutions to tough social problems. The fellowship gives them the opportunity to think differently, for the benefit of Cleveland’s poorest residents.

We took a leap with the fellowship, and we made no mistake in selecting these five individuals. They each had the balance of expertise and passion we know are needed to really make change. Our hope is that by opening up this problem-solving approach to individuals in the community, we can create a culture of innovation that supports idea-testing and risk-taking to find effective, impactful solutions.

We’re all on this learning journey together. That’s what innovation is all about – taking different routes until you find the solution that works for you. In our case, those solutions have the potential to change Clevelanders’ lives. I’m proud of all that these fellows have done to push for improvement, rather than accepting the status quo, and I’m looking forward to seeing the results of their hard work.

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Susanna H. Krey

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